Science & Technology

NBN Boss blames Government’s reliance on Copper for slow Speeds and Dropouts

The Government’s reliance on copper means cheaper prices but lower speeds, more dropouts and higher maintenance costs for broadband users, the outgoing boss of the National Broadband Network (NBN) has said.In a paper published by the NBN, Bill Morrow outlined the problems plaguing the rollout, many of which he attributed to the Multi Technology Mix (MTM) model adopted by the Coalition Government.

The original NBN model used fibre to each premise, which Mr Morrow said would have meant higher speeds and less faults, but would have cost more.

“The first and most notable consequence is the maximum speed limitations of copper versus the previous fibre-based model,” he said.

“The use of copper in the last [approximately] 1 kilometre of the network is the increased fault rate and operating costs versus the all-fibre alternative.”

But he said the MTM is cheaper, even after accounting for the higher faults.

“These incremental costs are factored into the improved economics and are a small fraction of the incremental costs to build fibre to every home,” he said.

‘Too many’ complaints about the NBN

Recent data from the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman shows a more than 200 per cent increase in complaints about the NBN.

Mr Morrow acknowledges there are “too many, albeit the minority, who are dissatisfied” with the NBN experience.

Despite NBN promising to help bridge the technology gap, Mr Morrow acknowledges that the MTM option means the level of service people receive will depend on “which technology is serving an end-user’s home or business”.

He says fibre to the node (FTTN), which will be the most common service, cannot compete with fibre all the way to the premises (FTTP).

“FTTN has a data speed variable that is determined by the length of copper serving the home and has a higher fault rate than fibre,” he said.

“FTTP has a top-end capability greater than all the others.”

Despite the Government promising users a minimum download speed of 25 megabits per second (MBS), Mr Morrow said this would not be possible during the “co-existence” period when other services like ADSL are still running.

During this “co-existence” period people on HFC (hybrid fibre coaxial) and FTTN services can only expect less than half this speed (12Mbs).

The “co-existence” period for HFC is 18 months and the NBN said it is “typically much longer” for people on FTTN.


There are several ways to test your NBN connection to see if you’re actually getting the speed you’re paying for.

The NBN has not provided a maximum time.

Mr Morrow also said many of the problems with the rollout of the MTM are because of the quality of the existing infrastructure the NBN is attempting to use.

“The physical condition of the network is sometimes worse than anticipated,” he said.

“Additionally, the databases of what exists and where each network is located are sometimes absent or inaccurate.”

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